How to support a student entrepreneur

I joined StartLabs in my freshman year at MIT to help support student entrepreneurs. Through it, I’ve run a variety of events, like Startup Bootcamp. One of my favorite new additions to the StartLabs team this year was Adam Eagle.

I’ve always been inclined towards kids who have been coding since before they could walk and Adam fits that stereotype perfectly.

StartLabs throws a weekly event known as SLACK (Stay Late and Hack). We open up our space to anyone in the Boston area and give them free dinner in exchange for having them work out of our space. I’ve seen a variety of projects spring out of this, from an automatic check-in system for MIT students coming to SLACK, to actual startup prototypes.

Adam and I frequently attended together, and he was crucial in helping me design the Startup Career Fair poster, and I always looked forward to working next to him.

One fateful week, Adam met a guy named David, who pitched him an idea. He believed that students wasted a lot of money on taxis to the airport, and that it would be awesome if they could split them. Not only would you save money, but you’d also make a new friend from your school.

Thus, SplitMyTaxi was born out of a SLACK night in the end of 2012. At the same time, I was approached by a local student celebrity, Peter “Bad Boy” Boyce. He saw that I was passionate about helping out student entrepreneurs and pitched an idea he had to help them even more. A couple of weeks later, RoughDraft.vc was launched, a student-run venture capitalist firm.

The idea was that a lot of students, like Adam, had these side-projects, dorm-room startups as I like to call them. However, a lot of these projects fall by the wayside due to classes and other commitments. The idea of RoughDraft was to give that minimum jolt of capital to students to make their ideas a reality and dedicate some real time towards it.

A couple of days after launching, I got the following email from Adam:

Hey Delian, I was looking at RoughDraft and was intrigued….

Of course, I pounced. Adam was clearly fit our portfolio of hacker kid working on an idea that could become a reality. At that point Adam had already developed an initial prototype. He posted it to the MIT Class of 2016 Facebook group a few days into Winter Break, and everyone was clamoring to use it on their way back to campus.

Well, one thing led to another, and I’m proud to announce that SplitMyTaxi is the second company that RoughDraft has funded.

What most people don’t understand, is that the capital we provide is not the most valuable resource we offer. Being backed by GC means that we are able to reach out to any of their portfolio founders on behalf of RoughDraft founder to ask for advice.

In Adam’s case, the fact that the partners are from the largest Boston schools was a huge resource as well. We got him connected to the school newspapers at Harvard, Tufts, and BU to help advertise and spread the word about SplitMyTaxi. I’ve helped Adam with everything from connections to Boston, to even wording in his signup process. As a partner and a friend, I’ve tried to help him as much as possible.

One of my favorite anecdotes from this entire experience of supporting Adam was hearing the first thing he bought with the company card:

“I remember the first thing we bought were a couple of Tshirts with the SplitMyTaxi logo. I think that’s when I realized this was real.”

I’m excited to see where SplitMyTaxi goes, but most importantly, I’m happy I’ve been able to be a resource for Adam beyond just being a good friend. I’m also excited that Adam is now permanently in the RoughDraft family, and I know he’ll be changing the world soon enough.

 
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